Munster stars as Maroons win Origin opener

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Cameron Munster has produced three famous State of Origin plays to lead Queensland to a shock 16-10 upset over NSW in the series opener at Accor Stadium.

In a return to the famed Origin grind after years of blowouts, Munster was at his brilliant best for the Maroons as they jumped to a 16-4 lead before holding out the fast-finishing Blues late.

With four debutants in their side, Queensland were forced to overcome an ankle injury which sidelined winger Xavier Coates in the first half while newcomer Jeremiah Nanai battled through a similar issue.

It was the Maroons' first win in Sydney since 2017, when Johnathan Thurston nailed a last-minute conversion in his last series beside Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.

And with those three greats on Queensland's coaching staff on Wednesday night, this was a win befitting the new era of the Slater-mentored Maroons.

Rookie Pat Carrigan swung the momentum of the match off the bench and fellow debutant Reuben Cotter made 49 tackles while halves Daly Cherry-Evans and Munster both played direct in attack.

Kalyn Ponga had one of his best nights in Origin at fullback, playing a role in two Maroons tries and pulling off a last-play tackle under the posts on Isaah Yeo on the siren.

In contrast the Blues were frantic, desperately chasing points in the second half as they struggled to win the ruck and halfback Nathan Cleary admitted they tried to move the ball around too much.

While Brad Fittler's NSW team scored first through Jack Wighton when Cleary and Jarome Luai put him over, they were forced to wait almost 60 minutes for their next points.

In between, Queensland took control in front of the biggest crowd in Sydney since the start of the pandemic with 80,512 in attendance.

Ponga's first big involvement came when a long pass to Selwyn Cobbo went to ground, only for the rookie winger to scoop the ball up and grubber-kick on the run inside for Dane Gagai to score.

Then it was time for Munster to stamp his authority.

Leading 6-4 after the break, he broke down field to put Queensland on the attack, before Cherry-Evans went over with ease from an ensuing scrum.

Ponga put on the ball of the match to make it 16-4 with 25 minutes to play, firing a long pass for Valentine Holmes to cross untouched on the left wing.

NSW were eventually able to get back within six points when Luai put Cameron Murray over to set up a grandstand finish.

But it was Munster who stood tall in defence.

The Melbourne star pulled off a crucial one-on-one strip on Stephen Crichton late, ending a Blues' attacking raid with six minutes to play.

He also popped up at a crucial moment in the Blues' penultimate set, latching onto a Luai grubber kick as it bounced towards the line.

"They're little moments but they are big moments," Slater said.

"It wasn't our game that won us the game tonight. It was the way Queensland have played for decades.

"That's what won us the game tonight."

NSW coach Brad Fittler insisted his side had the confidence to bounce back in Perth and Brisbane.

"It's always tough. If you lose the first one you are up against it," Fittler said.

"But winning the game there last year at Suncorp gives us a lot of confidence."

Meanwhile debate is likely to follow the independent doctor's decision to allow NSW's Isaah Yeo to play on after head contact in the first tackle.

The Penrith lock appeared to stagger back after the hit on Maroons prop Josh Papalii, but he was assessed on field and allowed to stay on.

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